Interview Hindi

I am fully into Gully Boy because it's a demanding project: Editor Nitin Baid


In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, Baid talks about working on Meghna Gulzar's Raazi, Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy and Karan Johar's short film in Lust Stories in the same year. 

Suparna Thombare

Perhaps one of the busiest film editors in Hindi cinema at the moment, Nitin Baid has worked on some very important films in the first half of this year, including Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi, Karan Johar’s short film in Lust Stories, Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy and Vikramaditya Motwane's Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (as supervising editor). 

These films come at the back of a very successful 2017, with films like Trapped, Ittefaq and Bareilly Ki Barfi (additional editor) to his name.

Baid has earned the trust of his directors in only a span of five years. He debuted as a first assistant editor on Anurag Kashyap's Gangs Of Wasseypur in 2012. 

"I had finished my filmmaking course at Whistling Woods and had been freelancing for six months. I had gone to South Korea at the Asian Film Academy to attend a workshop with Abbas Kiarostami where basically a bunch of us come together and work on one film, which is in Korean. That’s when I got a message from Shweta Venkat, who was the editor on Gangs Of Wasseypur," recounts Baid.  

In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, Baid opened up about working long hours on multiple films, collaborating with a variety of directors and his love for editing taut thrillers. Excerpts.

How was it kick starting your career with an ambitious film like Gangs Of Wasseypur, which was also made on a big scale?

It was a project which I was curious about ever since it was announced. Working with AK [Anurag Kashyap] was an interesting experience for me. Just being there. Obviously, its a massive film. But we had a long period of edit.

Alongside Gangs Of Wasseypur, I was also working on short films. As an assistant I was more excited, just thrilled that I was going to work on something I like. I love the crime genre. 

Just learning from AK or Vikram [Vikramaditya Motwane] was big for me. It was a massive project. The edit times were quite odd. He would come at 11pm and we would sit till 6am. 

There was a slight fear, but there was also excitement to learn. The team was like a family. For me at that time money didn’t matter, it was a different time. Just meeting everyone every day in Araam Nagar part 2. There was this camarderie and this happy feeling which I think I take back from there. Neeraj [Ghaywan] used to be there through out the day. He worked really hard. 

How was the experience of assisting Shweta Venkat in your first film, and later in Hasee Toh Phasee (2014)?

Shweta is an incredible editor. She was working on That Girl In Yellow Boots (2011) when I met her. She didn’t have much work to offer me. I hadn’t seen much of her work except Supermen Of Malegaon (2008). When Wasseypur happened, she contacted me. 

Working with her has been a very enriching experience for me because it's very rare to meet someone who is so secure about his or her work. Shweta is very secure and constantly gives you a free hand.  

I had heard that a lot of editors like to cut all the scenes themselves, but with Shweta, I could cut the scenes and show it to her and ask her what she thinks. So the kind of freedom that I would have wanted for a first film, I always got from Shweta, which worked for me. And during Hasee Toh Phasee, it [work dynamics] got much stronger.  

With Shweta it was pure, great learning. Together we formed a bond where we could trust each other’s work completely. It grew from Gangs Of Wasseypur to Hasee Toh Phasee. 

We had a double edit room set up. The process of editing was quite intense. Shweta was a guiding force in terms of letting me know that I could try out different stuff and not worry about it. That’s very rare for an assistant or an associate editor to have.  

With your first film as editor, Masaan (2015), you were involved from the planning stages itself. When you were cutting it, did you have any doubts about how its going to turn out?

It’s a crazy story with Masaan. We thought we were f*****g it up through out the shoot. We felt like we have been given a good script and we have come here to shoot, and screwed it up. It’s because we came with such high expectations. Not that I am saying that we made some masterpiece, but it took us a long time to accept the fact that we had made a decent film, which people seemed to be liking. We were scared.  

We all stayed at the same hotel and we would constantly have meetings with the heads of the departments one week in and say that we are not doing it right... that we are not pushing ourselves. The process became really intense. Everything we were doing had a plan B. 

As in, we would be like if this scene doesn’t work and they don’t let us reshoot it, we would have a back up plan. The budget was also tight and we were not going to come back to Banaras, so whatever happens, it will have to be [shot] in a studio. [For] that also you get a max of two days. 

A couple of scenes also ended up being reshot while we were still in Banaras. When Shalu and Vicky meet, the setting was outside the college. A proper location was chosen and the production design was done, but when we saw the scene on the edit table, we felt it wasn’t working. 

So we were reshooting in the first couple of days itself. When we reshot that scene, it was shot in 45 minutes, where she is eating the bhuja and he comes with a teddy bear. They saw a bhuja stall outside and Varun (Grover, screenwriter) wrote a scene around it, right there and then. Eventually, that scene went in the final cut. 

With this film, you were there since the inception and were also present on sets. But that isn’t always possible for all films, right?

It depends on the director. For me, the main reason for going to Banaras was that the film couldn't be reshot again there. I edited while the film was being shot. 

Like with Raazi [Meghna Gulzar’s next] we were literally editing every day. And it was the same with Gully Boy. Now, the footage can come so quickly. Also, everyone is impatient today. Even before the shoot is over, people are like ‘is the line up done?’ But I like that pressure because it keeps me on my toes. And I like to get the first lineup done quickly, creating the palette.

This happened with Masaan during the shoot of 'Man Kasturi' song. Neeraj [Ghaywan, director] thought that Vickey’s character should be crying. Before that he had cried on the beach with his friends. I strongly felt that his catharsis has happened there and he shouldn’t be crying again. I called him [Ghaywan] at the shoot and told him about it. He asked me if I was sure. I told him to take just one shot for me with him not crying and looking blankly at the ring and throwing it. So he took that one shot and it is there in the film. We have that trust in each other. Neeraj is slightly more emotional as a person than me. So it sort of balances out. 

What was your challenge while editing Trapped? It unfolds entirely in one location, a small apartment. And the only break we get is in Rajkummar Rao’s hallucinations. 

Those spaces that you are talking about, a lot of them were created on the edit table. Certain things were planned like, now he will try jumping from the window, in the next scene he will try throwing something, etc. So there were set pieces planned, and it was in-between these set pieces that things changed. 

There was a whole 7-minute sequence where he climbs down from the window, finds a cloth, makes a rope out of it and tries going down. But realising that the window on the floor below is closed, he comes back up and also falls down again. But it was removed because it felt like there was too much happening in the first half itself. 

Also, we were trying to crunch it and reduce the film’s length. The montages are something we were playing around with to gauge graph-wise when to slow things down and when to bring it up. 

What is it about editing that you enjoy considering the long work hours and the tough deadlines? 

For me, editing starts when the first line-up is ready, so I can see the overall view. It’s almost like the first draft of a script. It is a different pleasure then because you know the end now. Then you go scene by scene. And then you start removing stuff because you have perspective and you start seeing the stuff that is not needed now... in the larger scheme of things. 

For example, in Masaan, Vicky Kaushal’s brother’s angle was about 12 minutes, which was left out of the India cut. We removed the whole portion because it was taking the attention away from the main story. Structuring – placing scenes and moving them around and the emotional impact it creates – becomes a lot of fun.

How much does your process change when you move from working with one director to the other?

Lot of the process is determined by the director. Everyone has a different working style. For someone like Meghna [Gulzar], I’ll be sitting with her on Raazi. By the time she is done with the shoot, I’m also done with the line-up. So we are sitting together and locking scenes quickly. Some directors like to be very active. 

In Ittefaq with Abhay Chopra what happened was he would just come, see and say ‘This is what I feel’. We may have sat together for one or two days. He would just tell me that ‘the feeling is not coming across’ and then I would rework it and show it to him. 

Karan (Johar), with whom I worked on Love And Lust short film, will give you all the creative freedom. We were working on a crazy deadline for this film. So with him too, I would cut the film and then he would come, watch the scene and let me know if it is working. 

While they were shooting I was parallelly editing. When they finished shooting on the 10th day I had to lock the cut by the 12th. On that day Karan had come at 2 in the morning, he watched the whole film in a flow once and then told me that we should tweak certain portions and rest everything is fine. Within an hour we arrived at our final cut. 

So it depends on the director. Sometimes they want to spend time and go through the rushes bit by bit. So the working style changes with every director. But the primary way in which I start working is the same where I start lining it up and make the first cut with music and everything.  

Had you seen the original Ittefaq before editing the remake?

I hadn’t seen the film actually. I originally met Abhay [Chopra] for another film, which he was supposed to produce at the time, but that film didn’t work out then. Of course, I did end up woking on that film eventually – Bareilly Ki Barfi. 

He remembered meeting me and called me for Ittefaq. He told me that it was a remake of a Yash Chopra film and I hadn’t seen it. I went and watched it that day. Of course, when I read the script it was very different from the original. And I like these shifting point-of-view kind of narratives. Crime genre is something that I enjoy a lot. I love David Fincher’s work and I think thrillers are so much fun to work on. 

Are there any films or editors whose work you look at for inspiration?

There are a couple of people that I look at when I am stuck at some point. Recently, I have been watching John Mac McMurphy's [editor of Dallas Buyers Club (2013)] works. He is a director and editor, a one man army. 

With him its always very interesting, the way he constructs the narrative is almost like a music piece in terms of the rhythm. The whole last sequence in Big Little Lies [American television series]. It's a sequence that could be played out normally, but the way he inter-cuts, he just creates a different impact. 

The story is pretty obvious, but he still keeps you in tension and the empathy and sympathy he creates for the characters is really nice. His work has a musical quality. It’s almost like writing a musical piece. He has done different films with different tonalities, but you still see that the musicality is consistent. 

Do you get tired or disinterested?

It could happen and that is a point when you do screenings for people because then you see it with fresh eyes. You suddenly start seeing new things. Firstly, you are sh*****g bricks whe you are showing the film. I am extreemly nervous, though I won’t show up at the time of the screening. When we showed Masaan we were really scared, a friend came and saw the film and gave feedback and we realised it is not a bad film. 

If you get bored, show it [your work] to 5 people and you see things that you had completely disregarded earlier. Of course, your are a human being and get used to things because you have seen it so many times. 

How is it working with Zoya Akhtar on Gully Boy?

As a creative person, I really admire her work. I have enjoyed all the films she has made. She is very good with dramatic scenes. The subject is different this time, but the core of it is the life story of this person. There is a whole lot of emotion coming through — love, family and everything — which is consistent in her work, which make them really engaging and interesting to watch. 

A lot of drama builds along in tiny moments also (in Gully Boy). I am really excited about working with her. 

Do you end up working on multiple projects at one time?

I am usually working on one or maximum two, but the timelines of both would be different. Between Raazi, I worked on Karan’s [Johar] short film. 

Raazi was almost getting done so I was involved with Bhavesh Joshi Superhero as supervising editor. And then Ghoul [Netflix original mini-series] came in and now Gully Boy. 

If two films are starting at the same time, I won’t be able to do both. If it is supervising then I can because that doesn’t require all my time. I can go for 2-3 days; break it down whenever I have free time. Right now, I am fully into Gully Boy because its a demanding project. There is a lot to do and play around with.